Calling Edward Norton a method actor is a bigger understatement than saying CBS's Big Brother is boring. For his role as a white supremacist in American History X, the two-time Oscar nominee shaved his head and gained 30 pounds of muscle. To prepare for 1998's Rounders, the Yale grad competed in the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. And for his latest film, the heist drama The Score (opening Friday), he got friendly with the LAPD to learn about cracking safes.

"I found some guys with the Burglary and Autotheft Unit and shadowed them for a month and a half," explains Norton, who plays Robert De Niro's partner in crime. "I had a little beeper, and if they got a call on an interesting case — to bust a drug dealer's safe open to get evidence or just a robbery scene — they would call me. They spent a lot of time in their off-hours explaining safe mechanics to me and showing me how to [crack them open]."

Norton also spent some time at a school for the mentally and physically disabled to get ready for the Score scenes in which his alter ego pretends to be handicapped. But he's quick to point out that this dual role is light-years away from the multiple personalities he juggled in Primal Fear and Fight Club.

"This time, the audience knows I'm playing a character," he maintains. "I remember thinking about Primal Fear, and that you can't pull off a trick like [faking multiple personalities] too many times. You can only do it once when no one knows anything about who you are and you haven't done any interviews like this."